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Manresa Restaurant, Los Gatos


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I haven't eaten at Manresa, so I can't comment on the place. However, to be fair to skepticalgourmet, people praise or are critical of restaurants after only one visit all the time on here. People have been critical of areas of California, sometimes after single visits to one or two restaurants or even just from what they have heard from strangers. People have given negative opinions on restaurants recommended by others which they haven't even tried. Skeptical just gave his opinion based on his one experience, like many of us do.

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Regarding the use of my term "foodies" in the post above, nothing derogatory is meant by it. I am referring to people who seriously enjoy food, like myself. This restaurant caters I think to this group - its an experience that demands attention and investment by the customer.

Take for example the physical layout of the entry. A fairly narrow hall leads to the front desk, which sits like a guard station monitoring access as if to the temple within. Its an entirely uncomfortable spot to wait if you arrive early prior to your companions. There is a small bench under a semi-frosted window that allows glimpses of the kitchen within (and of the customer arrivals by the kitchen). While this may be entertaining, fascinating or just amusing to a foodie, I would think many diners would prefer a comfortable chair.

Or for instance, after sitting down we were asked if we would start with a glass of champagne. Now in restrospect, after eating the food I understand that of course such a restaurant would want patrons to start with champagne as its one of the best ways to cleanse the palate, spark the appetite etc. However, as no context was provided it seemed very odd. My reaction was, why not ask if anyone wants a cocktail? Of course, the reason is the restaurant only serves wine, which was never explained, presumably because the diner is supposed to know that such a temple of food would not serve a beverage that did not perfectly compliment the courses. Instead, it seemed like the waiter was trying to foist some pricey champagne on us. Before even having an opportunity to ask a question, however, we were on to the discussion of the various types of bottled water available...lets see, so I can get 4 different types of water but not a martini - definitely a foodie restaurant.

to tanabutler - "sour grapes" is not a particularly apt metaphor but was an attempt to use something appropriate to a discussion board about food.

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I have not eaten at the Manresa, but would like to. I would like to point out that most (or all), of the VERY positive posts have come from people with VIP or SUPER VIP status and not from "regular" diners. I think that we can all agree that there is a MUCH greater chance of having a great experience when you are given extra attention. And I, for one, appreciate it when a review has a bit of a disclaimer. I also find negative reviews very helpful in the sense that one can sometimes be alerted to potential problems and try and avert them.

"Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage."

Woody Allen

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I would like to point out that most (or all), of the VERY positive posts have come from people with VIP or SUPER VIP status and not from "regular" diners.
Hey, I am no VIP, was just a regular diner. Didnt mention eGullet even ( I never do).

But I agree with you that VIPs at a restaurant are likely to have a "different" (good, for the most part, I hope) experience than your average diner like me.

I also agree with you that in general I find negative reviews very helpful -- I also think it takes more effort on someone's part to post a negative review than to post a positive one.

However, honestly, skepticalgourmet's post raised a redflag with me pretty much for the same reasons mentioned by pim -- this was his/her very first post, was sketchy on details, using a loaded username. It would have raised a flag if it was a positive review as well.

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I have not eaten at the Manresa, but would like to. I would like to point out that most (or all), of the VERY positive posts have come from people with VIP or SUPER VIP status and not from "regular" diners.

Yes - this relates to a point I made earlier. This is not a restaurant for a group outing or business dinner. Its for foodies who want to participate in a particular type of experience. For the foodies who know the chef/owner, and are getting special "chef menus", this of course only increases the experience.

But for the rest of us, well it might not be the same thing. I wonder if we had to wait so long for some of our courses because some Super VIP table was getting their 7th or 8th dish? I don't know, but I do know that this sort of multi-course dining is extremely demanding on the kitchen and waitstaff to maintain proprer timing and service. Our waiter certainly wasn't around much. All the requests had to go to other people, translate in some far off reaches of the restaurant, and then the waiter would come back to the table to confirm the request. What a hassle.

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I have not eaten at the Manresa, but would like to. I would like to point out that most (or all), of the VERY positive posts have come from people with VIP or SUPER VIP status and not from "regular" diners. I think that we can all agree that there is a MUCH greater chance of having a great experience when you are given extra attention. And I, for one, appreciate it when a review has a bit of a disclaimer. I also find negative reviews very helpful in the sense that one can sometimes be alerted to potential problems and try and avert them.

This is a very good point. With all due respect to tanabutler,pim, et al, Kinch was ready and raring for their visits and pulled out the stops for them. bong's visit was much more useful to me, because it showed what happens to the hoi polloi at this restaurant. also, his/her report was pretty detailed, which was very helpful.

Actually, if you get enough people posting about their first time visits, I feel that can be useful. If enough people have a good/bad first time visit at a place, that may mean something. Or not. But I'd rather they post something about it, than remain mute until the 3rd (5th?) visit, which may never even happen.


Edited by jschyun (log)

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.


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Last night was among those incredible-once in a lifetime-dining-experiences ... enjoying the delights of Manresa and it certainly had to be among the most lovely of restaurants which I have had the opportunity to enjoy!

David Kinch offers nothing less than his amazing, well-conceived creativity, which was evident in each and every bite ... the service was impeccable and the entire evening was one I wish for every one of you!

An eye-opener in all respects ... thanks, David, for personalizing our dining down to the most minute detail, and for what you bring to the world of unique dining!

Don't miss Manresa, should you be in or near northern California, eGulleteers!

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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  • 1 month later...

From an email to manresa email list members:

"Join us for a special evening of the finest regional, contemporary cuisine of Vancouver when guest Chef David Hawksworth of West Restaurant in Vancouver joins Chef David Kinch of Manresa Restaurant for an inspired multi-course dinner featuring the best of two regions: the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay Vancouver. A superb pairing of wines will be selected to complement each course.

David Hawksworth and West Restaurant have garnered numerous awards including "Restaurant of the Year" and "Chef of the Year" from the prestigious Annual Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. For more information please visit www.westrestaurant.com.

Reservations are available by calling Manresa Restaurant or through OpenTable.com."

What makes this so exciting for me is that West's Hawksworth has produced one of the finest dining experiences I've had and seeing how Chef Kinch is inviting him for this special night shows that I'm not alone in thinking that Hawksworth has da masta skillz. ;-)

Isaac Bentley

Without the culinary arts, the crudeness of the world would be unbearable. - Kate & Leopold

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I have a reservation for Manresa for Oct 16 for my birthday which i am really looking forward to

We will all be having a chef's tasting prepared without any shell-fish, pork or rabbit

We will most likely be bringing wine for the occasion for a group of 8

Does anyone who has been have any input as to a good line-up or varietals etc

From the menu on their the Manresa website i was thinking alsace (most likely PG or Guwerz), pinot noir (CA or Burgundy) and Port (1977 for birth year)

Any advise would be greatly appreciated

Thanks So Much

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Perhaps I could offer a couple of recommendations.

I think BYO is fine as long as you also plan to buy something off the list as well. Perhaps a bottle of white, or a champagne? That's an etiquette I almost always follow. I think it's only fair to the restaurants.

I also think that you should inform the restaurant of the wines you plan to bring, a little advance notice will prevent an unfortunate miss-match situation.

As for your choice for red, I agree with the burgundy choice, I don't think the the food at Manresa is very Bordeaux friendly. I've had burgundies with my meat courses at both my Manresa meals, and found them to be a very good generic match.

The port might be a little to heavy for the first few dessert courses, but should be a perfect match for the chocolate ones.

have a lovely meal,


chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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  • 3 weeks later...

Absolutely stellar write-up of Manresa in the London Observer right now. The writer, Jay Rayner, had previously dined at Per Se, and thus the last sentence is a very telling one.

So when the chef came forward at the end of the night to ask us if he had won, there really was only one answer: Yes, Mr Kinch, and in so very many ways.

Congratulations, Chef Kinch. And thanks to Pim for her part: excellent all around.

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  • 2 weeks later...

On Friday night, we were finally able to go to Manresa for the chef's tasting. We were six: Bob, his daughter (the mother of little Logan, the baby whose face currently appears under my name, to the left), Charley (dear friend who's eaten at Manresa before...upthread, with Niki, who took those spectacular photos), my daughter, and her friend, Dom, who was one of the Bargetto family hikers who were missing for several days in the snow last month.

I posted about the 20+ courses (with wine) here. Because I had serious problems with my camera, I don't have a shot of every dish. And really, it was more about enjoying the evening than working as a photographer. So some photos are out of focus, but that's just because I wanted Dom's family to get a feel of the dishes (and, for example, the butter with fleur de sel).

Chef Kinch and his staff outdid themselves. I can't imagine a nicer place to take a group of people intent on celebrating something (or many somethings). It was warm, welcoming, elegant without being stuffy, and a pretty wide cross-section of the populace were represented.

Go, if you can.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Took my best friend to Manresa last friday. While I had heard many good things about the food there, I did not expected to be so wonderfully impressed by both the food and the service. David Kinch's tasting menu combined solid culinary technique with a dash of fun that seemed to play on contrast of taste and texture.

We started with a flavorful black olive madeleines with red pepper pate de fruit and moved into a surprisingly light parmesan churros. This was followed by a refreshing grapefruit and fennel sorbet for me and citrus and jasmin tea gelee for my friend. The server then handed us each a crunchy chestnut croquette that seemed to melt in your mouth once bitten into, which caused my friend to comment that sex should only be so good.

The heavenly foie gras with cumin caramel somehow managed to combine the richness of foie gras with the smooth creaminess of a creme brulee. Just as we were savoring the heady richness of the foie gras, we were served a spritely tuna belly with hint of meyers lemon on a bed of cucumber gelee. The lovely Japanese butterfish with white soy provided a nice change of pace and took our palates in a different direction while steamed black cod with warm steelhead roe that followed once again played the sweetness of the fish against the briney taste of the roe beautifully. There was also a delightfully glazed Nantucket bay scallop with cabbages and a warm sea bream with winter vegetables that makes you feel nice and cozy.

The desserts were an unusual combination of parsnip cake with cream cheese. While the date milkshhake seemed a bit west coast for this east coast palate, the chocolate souffle with pear ice cream was a good finish to a wonderful meal.

Service was impeccable with a very knowledgeable waitstaff and my server even reommended a deep rich red wine that somehow complimented all the seafood I had.

Manresa is the kind of restaurant I love, it has a cozy relaxing atomosphere with excellent service and wonderful food. While David Kinch may not admit to being a culinary genius, but he certainly cooks like one.

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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Lovely post, Bond Girl. You mention a lot of dishes in there that I haven't heard of, how cool is that. I love the phrase "winter vegetables."

In concluding the work of redesigning their web site, I wrote this: "Manresa is a magical place, dispensing something to mortals that borders on the mystical. It's how things SHOULD be." It sounds like you had that experience, when things add up greater than the sum of their parts.

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Yes, it was a lovely experience. Too often we dine in restaurants that treats their diners like children. We sit in dining rooms where the decor is either uptight and stuffy or sleek, modern but cold. In New York there is always the dress code that makes me crazy. All that for food that is quite often very mediocre.

Manresa is everything that these places are not. The atomosphere is warm and friendly and the food excellent. I'm still thinking about the Foie Gras Cream which was like Foie Gras in a flan. That is all one can expect from a great restaurant.

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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You won't get any argument from me on that score. They seem to really be hitting their stride, and I think it's a result of the dedication of each person working there: front and back of the house. We weren't the fanciest-dressed group in there when we dined (nor were we slobs, of course). There were some people who were what I think of as over-dressed (rather like the Texas matrons who go to brunch with their furs), but I'm sure they felt comfortable, as we did. It's just that kind of place: you can be in your own little bubble and enjoy the experience as the gift it is. And it really did feel that way to me: like a very thoughtful gift. The staff is tuned to the customer. It's pretty rare, and it's pretty wonderful.

I'm sure French Laundry does the same thing. There are some places where the focus is on true service, which is offered with humility, as opposed to razzle dazzle. Very Old World, in the best possible way.

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Took my mother to Manresa this past Saturday night as a special treat for her. She is from Mobile, AL where if it ain't simply raw oysters, it ain't worth eating at all. Seriously, the food in Mobile uniformly sucks.

I can't post beautiful photographs and my higher brain functions sort of cease because the food there taps into my most primitive and atavistic pleasure centers, so no elegantly worded descriptions of the most exquisite little dishes we were served.

The best I can manage is little moans and grunts of happiness- really. It's quite sad. I'm lucky my autonomous functions don't cease.

Food mmmm good. Service superb. Happy me. Happy mom. Happy. Happy. Happy.

Stephanie Kay

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One of the things that sets Manresa apart from its peers is the chef’s willingness to take risks: some of the dishes succeed brilliantly, while the occasional dish falls flat on its face. The meal is divided into so many courses that these failures don’t detract from the meal itself. By taking so many risks and serving so many courses, Chef Kinch invites his guests along for the ride as he tries out new preparations, unusual flavor combinations, and interesting textures.

Here’s the menu from our meal at Manresa on Saturday:

1] carrot-orange cocktail w/hibiscus

2] parmesan churros

3] sayori w/shiso (deep fried)

4] fennel & orange salad

5] bluefin tuna belly, meyer lemon (served raw)

6] chestnut croquettes (dominated by truffles)

7] prime beef tartare

8] potato leek soup w/egg & cheese

9] foie custard and twice cooked foie & quince on toast crisp

10] fluke & caviar

11] mackerel & steelhead roe

12] saltcod & potatoes

13] more foie gras

14] roast squab w/yams & coconut milk

15] lamb shoulder & garlic puree

16] wagyu beef, spinach, and sauce bordelaise

17] pineapple soup w/lemongrass

18] meyer lemon custard w/ginger -- buttermilk panna cotta w/huckleberries

19] banana cake & pecan ic ecream

20] molasses milkshake

21] chocolate and pear dessert

22] mint sorbet and chocolate gelee

If we were only served a subset of the menu then the average quality of the food could have been much higher, but it would have been at the expense of what makes Manresa special. This is not a temple of gastronomy; this is a talented chef and his staff working their collective asses off to put out a huge variety of dishes for a public, which would do well to not eat anything else the day of their visit.

Although the menu (personalized, a nice touch) provided by the staff indicates that the churros were served second, they appeared on the table first. Since I was starving, I didn’t spend much time contemplating this item.

I really enjoyed the crisp citrus flavor in the cocktail: it got the meal off to a great start. Next we were served a battered and fried fish stick, similar enough to what I was served as a kid from the freezer in the yellow box to bring back a childhood memory, but vastly more enjoyable to eat at this point in my life. The batter was thin but crisp, the fish perfectly cooked and the shiso providing a nice bit of freshness to the dish. This was one of my favorite parts of the meal. This was followed by another orange dish served in a martini glass, which I enjoyed possibly more than the first dish, but I would have been just as happy with only one orange dish served in a martini glass.

The next amuse (yes, we were still on amuses) was raw bluefin tuna belly served in a quenelle on a spoon in the same way as the beef tartare was served a few courses later. Of the two I preferred the tuna, though if I were to have both dishes without wine I’d probably prefer the beef, as the tuna was a spectacular match for the wine (Alsatian Riesling, naturally) we had with it. Between the spoons we were served a chestnut croquette; on a previous visit, we had been served a corn version of this, which I preferred – the chestnut in this dish acted more as a container for the creamy center which was dominated by truffle oil. I love the texture of this dish, but I could have done without the truffle oil. Our last amuse came in the form of a poached egg with grated manchego cheese, and potato leek soup poured over the egg tableside. This is a dish with massive potential: texturally it’s spectacular, the cheese is somewhat dry and provides a contrast to the egg and the soup acts more as a sauce than a soup. My only complaint about this dish is the soup was far too subtle for my taste - I would have preferred a little more depth in the soup to bring a bit more richness to the dish as a whole.

Next we moved to the main courses, apparently only after eating 8 dishes were we properly hungry for dinner :laugh:. First up was a pair of foie gras dishes: the Manresa signature foie gras custard, described in more detail in many other writeups of the restaurant, and a slice of foie gras served on a slice of quince paste on a rectangular piece of toast. The foie gras custard, prepared like crème caramel, is a brilliant preparation, but I find the coarsely ground pepper in the dish a bit jarring when I encounter it. The “twice cooked foie gras” is very similar to a standard foie gras terrine served cold. It’s a nice match with the quince paste and the toast.

Fluke and caviar was next – another raw dish, good but at this point in the meal I’m about done with raw preparations. The next fish course, mackerel with smoked steelhead roe steeped in sake, was excellent, with great textures (despite skin that could have been slightly crisper) and depth of flavor from the smoked roe. On the heels of the thoroughly enjoyable mackerel dish was the only abject failure of the night: the saltcod had a dry and unpleasant texture and was far fishier than it should be; the potato puree had a gummy/gluey texture.

A second foie gras course followed, this time in my favorite form – seared. I’m such a sucker for seared foie gras; as long as it’s reasonably well prepared I love it, although this was better than most, very crisp on the outside and perfectly creamy inside.

Poultry came in the form of roast squab with yams and coconut milk – with game birds neither MsMelkor or I ever really find the breast meat compelling, and this again was true for the squab we were presented: the legs were outstanding and the breast was as good as it gets, which when presented next to perfectly cooked legs, couldn't compare. The yam puree provided a nice contrast in textures from the crisp squab skin. The only downside to this dish was the sauce, which was a bit too simple for the dish.

Another great success followed in the form of a lamb shoulder which had been cooked sous vide for 36 hours and was plated with nothing more than a dollop of garlic puree. This item is a perfect illustration of why we enjoy dinning at this level during the winter, as slow cooked meats are an absolute favorite of both of ours, and all the better when they are flavorful and delicious as this was. Wagyu beef bavette with a bordelaise sauce followed; I think I would have liked this dish better if it preceded the lamb, since the lamb was a much heartier dish. This was a perfectly acceptable dish, it just had the misfortune of following a better one.

This meal ended with six sweet courses - first was a pineapple and lemongrass soup, which was another one of the highlights of the meal: bright and crisp, it provided much-needed refreshment for our palates. The next dessert was a Meyer lemon custard with ginger for me and a buttermilk panna cotta for MsMelkor – we as usual ate half of each and swapped. A disc of caramelized sugar and some Meyer lemon zest were tossed in with the lemon custard. These touches made for a lovely dish, again good textures and bright flavors, though the ginger flavor was a bit lost. The panna cotta was good, but nothing extraordinary. Banana cake with pecan ice cream, another very good dish, tasted as it sounds like it would.

The next two desserts weren’t a favorite of either of ours; the molasses milkshake was a one-dimensional dish that was simply a bit of overpowering molasses in drinkable form. The chocolate and pear dessert was presented in two ways: a small chocolate soufflé with pears on the side for MsMelkor and chopped pears sandwiched between meringue discs with a quenelle of whipped chocolate ganache on top for me. The soufflé was good but it started to break (a bit of water at the bottom of the dish). On my plate, the pears seemed out of place with the meringue – the “sandwich” fell apart when cut with a fork and the dish in general seemed a bit disjointed. But this minor misstep was forgiven with an excellent mint sorbet with chocolate gelee to finish up the meal.

Last time we ate at Manresa I thought the kitchen produced better sweet dishes than it did savory, but this time the savory dishes excelled as well. I came away from this meal more certain than ever that Chef Kinch isn’t trying to compete with anyone anywhere - he’s doing his own thing in a small town, turning out good food to people who enjoy eating it. I think it is a great disservice to Manresa to compare it to the French Laundry; the only reason it ever gets held to that standard is because Chef Keller is within driving distance. Were Manresa another 150 miles down the coast it would just be what it is without having to live up to an impossible standard. In any event, this write up is far too wordy by now; the gist of it is that if you have the opportunity, you should go to Manresa, you’ll enjoy it, but you shouldn’t expect perfection.

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I had a different meal from Melkor, though we were dining at the same table. Mine is the menu for the shellfish and pork eating barbarians. :raz:

which consists of the following items:

Parmesan Churros

carrot-orange cocktail with hibiscus

Oyster with sea urchin, in it's own gelee

Sayori, shiso and bacon

Fatty Bluefin belly, meyer lemon

Chestnut croquettes

Beef and Oyster Tarare

Potato leek soup with egg and Manchego

Foie gras and cumin caramel

Twice cooked foie gras, spiced quince

Scallop and osetra caviare tartare, watercress

Horse mackeral with steelhead roe

Potatoes with (salt) cod and new oil

Garbure of duck fois gras

Monterey abalone and brasied veal cheeks

Confit of suckling pig, cardoons, boudin noir

36 hour" lamb shoulder with sweet garlic

Pineapple soup with lemongrass

Meyer lemon custard with ginger cream

Buttermilk panna cotta with huckleberries

Warm banana cake with candied pecan ice cream

Chocolate pear

Molasses milkshake

Mint sorbet and choclate gelee

The ones that really stood out for me, interestingly enough, were the ones Melkor couldn't eat. The Oyster and Uni in "sea water jelly" was luxurious texture and sharp, bright flavors, not to mention quite a sight to be seen. The beef and oyster tartare was assertive yet wonderfully blended flavors. The scallop and osetra caviar was one of Jay and my favorites the last time we were there, each on its own were good, but together it was something far beyond the mere combination. The fish stick, sayori and shizo, I could eat unlimited amount of these. The confit of suckling pig was just piggy and delicious, and i could never resist crackling, and the pièce de resistance, the ultimate surf and turf, the fried abalone and braised veal cheeks, was also beyond description. My favorite braised dish of the year, by far.

There were also a few things that were not great, the bacalao/mashed potato dish was too salty, the quince paste a little too sweet and overwhelming for the foie, the molasses milkshake far too sweet even for my sweet tooth.

I strongly disagree with Dave on the Potato leek soup with egg and Manchego though. I thought it perfect. It was all subtlety and flavors, layers and layers of delicate tastes and feels. Just marvelous.

Don't count on me to say that Manresa is perfect. It is not. No restaurant should have to live up to that impossibility. Manresa is definitely my favorite place to eat in the Bay Area though, hands down. I happens to think David Kinch is brilliant, and I could never resist the charm of Michael and the other staff. The chef always make it so interesting to return, to see what else he will pull out of his hat. As often as I go there, I still manage to get new dishes all the time. It's never boring at Manresa.

Another thing that we should make known, this dinner was a holiday party of 14. That the kitchen could pull off such an intricate menu for that many diners is quite a feat in itself.

Edited by pim (log)

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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and I forgot to talk about the dessert. The deceptively simple pineapple and lemongrass soup was perfect, and couldn't have come at a more perfect time. The pannacotta --and I am no fan of panna cotta normally-- reminded me of the taste of the blueberry cheese tart made of philadelphia cream cheese and canned blueberries of my youth. It was a vast improvement, obviously, but the flavor profile so reminded me of my favorite childhood dessert. I loved it.

Another brilliant piece was the mint sorbet and chocolate gelee, a wonderful closing to the already wonderful meal.

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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This is perhaps a little philosophical, but I guess I don't really understand what perfection means when one is dealing with judgements as subjective as those we make about food - taste has a particularly strong double meaning in this context.... To take an example from a field I know much better, a musical performance can be absolutely technically accurate with out it any sense being perfect, or indeed even good. I seem to remember Keller - ironically given how often people speak of the FL as 'perfect' - saying something about perfection being a false objective somewhere, but that could just be in the fantasy land that is my brain.

That said, producing that menu for a table of 14 is extraordinary, does anyone know how big the brigade is?? I have to admit the shellfish seems a very important part of Manresa's food, Pim's menu does seem that bit more exciting to me. I'm so glad I don't go without any of those things.... One of the people I'm going with next week is a vegetarian, I'll be really interested to see what they do for her.

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